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Ray Pennington

A beloved songwriter, former producer and long-time member of the Shackle Island community lost his life in a house fire on Wednesday, Oct. 7.

Ray Pennington, 86, was best known for writing the hit song “I’m a Ramblin’ Man,” a song Waylon Jennings took to Number 1 in 1974.

Pennington was in his home in the 2600 block of New Hope Road when he smelled smoke and walked to the garage to investigate, according to Shackle Island Volunteer Fire Chief Marty Bowers.

Bowers said the fire appeared to have started in a golf cart that shorted in the garage. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigations, the agency that investigates house fires when a fatality is involved, will make the final determination on the fire’s cause, Bowers added.

Pennington’s wife escaped the blaze unharmed.

Fire crews from Shackle Island, Hendersonville, Millersville, Cottontown and White House responded to what Bowers called the largest house fire he’d responded to in his 27 years with the department.

“It was a 7,000 square-foot home,” he said. “We’ve never had a fire that large.”

Two firefighters – one from Shackle Island and another from White House – were treated at Hendersonville Medical Center from heat exhaustion, Bowers added.

A native of Clay County, Ky., Pennington first performed in a western swing band called the Western Rhythm Boys. He signed with his first record label, King Records, in 1958. Pennington moved to Nashville in 1964 where worked as a producer, song writer and musician. In 1966, he signed to Capitol Records as a recording artist charting three songs. He charted five more times after moving to Monument records in 1969.

Pennington is also the co-founder of Step One Records, a label that signed, among others, Ray Price and fiddler Clinton Gregory.

Pennington’s family will have a private service at a later date, according to an obituary posted by Sellars Funeral Home.

“The family would like to thank all the first responders, police, sheriff’s office, TBI, EMT/EMS, and all the fire departments that came,” it states. “We truly appreciate you all.”

In lieu of flowers Pennington’s family asked that donations be made to the following fire departments: Shackle Island Volunteer Fire Department, Hendersonville Fire Department, Station 1 Fire Department, White House Fire Department, Cottontown Volunteer Fire Department, and Millersville Fire Department.

“If monetary donations aren’t acceptable, the family asks that you donate a meal to the firefighters at their fire departments.”

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